Womens voices missing in Malawi election

Date: May 31, 2010
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Articles analysed:
– Women aspirants still face challenges, The Nation, April 28, 2009
– Katsonga brothers, Chimango speak on polls, Malawi News, May 23-29
– Political parties must commit to gender ahead of, GL Commentary Service, April 8, 2009

These articles may be used to:
– highlight the importance of balanced sourcing;
– examine how to move away from subtle gender stereotypes;
– discuss the inclusion of women in the news;
– debate the affects of reporting’s gender inequity on society;
– highlight challenges facing women aspirants.

The story “Women aspirants still face challenges” highlights that women candidates in the run-up to the elections face numerous challenges, such as resources and campaign skills, a development termed as a threat to the 50:50 campaign programme. The facts in the story are based on a report presented at a Pan-African Civic Educators Network (PACENET). The second story, “Katsonga brothers, Chimango speak on polls,” is about how some leading politicians reacted to the results of the May 19 polls. Some prominent female politicians also lost elections and protested. But their views were not heard. A third story, “Political parties must commit to gender,” is an opinion piece calling on government to address gender in the elections.

Both of the two news stories are missing women’ sources. “Women aspirants still face challenges” blames some women aspirants for not being aggressive enough in their campaign strategies. The only source in this story is the PACENET Executive Director Steven Duwa, whose organisation carried out research. The story should have included views of the ‘said’ women who are facing the challenges. Readers would believe the report that indeed it reflects the actual and true situation on the ground if women themselves are heard. We needed to hear from at least a representative of the women’s body, to confirm these fears and probably respond to the accusations that some of the women candidates are not aggressive enough. The story is not balanced in terms of sources. In the second story, there are three sources, namely Mark Katsonga Phiri of People’s Progressive Movement (PPM), Davies Katsonga of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Louis Chimango of Malawi Congress Party (MCP). There are no women sources. Some prominent female politicians, some of them had been MPs for 10-15 years such as Lillian Patel, were also not elected to Parliament. But their views were not heard in the story. The report was one-sided in favour of men. Although the third story is a commentary with no outside voices, the writer does provide facts, figures and comment on women aspirants.

The first story focuses on the challenges facing women aspirants and then offers advice to the candidates, as well as NGO’s who support women candidates. The challenges are seen from the perspective of researchers, who also document why women face such challenges. The challenges are not seen from their eyes of the women themselves. The second story is presented as an initiative of the reporter who interviewed the lost candidates. He interviewed the three male politicians who lost the election and all of them speak their mind. It is however missing and perspectives of women. The commentary, on the other hand, sheds some light on elections from a gender perspective.

In the first story, the language itself does not discriminates. However, the blaming tone suggests that the women themselves are at fault for the challenges they face. The language is neutral; however, focus on the three might create an impression that men political gurus are considered invincible. As such, their downfall is news enough. The commentary is written in language appropriate to the topic and style of the piece.

Discussion Questions

– Why is it important to have balanced sources in election coverage?
– Why does media often ignore women politicians?
– Do you agree that women candidates are not aggressive enough in their campaigning?
– What challenges to women aspirants face, based on their gender?

Training exercises
– Clip news articles about an election over a weeklong period. Analyse who is speaking, and compare this against the numbers of women aspirants and voters.
– Interview and write profiles about women in politics.
– Write a commentary piece about women in elections. Include women sources.

Other Training Resources
Gender, elections, and media
Gender and Governance
Business Unusual: Gender and the economy

From the Gender and Media Diversity Centre
Beyond numbers: Gender in political awareness
Faustina Sinyangwe, media ignores women politicians in Zambia
Click here and search theme “Politics” for more related research on the GMDC database.






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